© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr

Fresh Start after the Earthquake

© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr

In our capacity as a development organization, we react swiftly to natural disasters in partner countries. In Nepal, for example, Helvetas combined reconstruction after the 2015 earthquake with vocational training, thus contributing to sustainable development.

  • Project Name
    Humanitarian Response and Reconstruction after the 2015 Earthquake
  • Project Phase
    2015 to 2019
  • Funding
    These projects was funded by donations and Swiss Solidarity.
  • Thematic focus
    Climate & Disaster Resilience
    Humanitarian Response

This project was completed in 2019.

Reconstruction and vocational training

Earthquakes. Droughts. Tropical storms. Like other international organizations and multinational companies, we are also confronted with natural disasters in partner countries. After the first shockwave, Helvetas experts on location and in Switzerland plan an humanitarian response. What is the government doing about the situation? What are other organizations doing about it? How can we make the most of our own structures and connections to help out in the regions affected? Can we let others use our structures? And what can donors in Switzerland do to help?

So it was after the earthquakes hit Nepal in April and May 2015, killing nearly 9,000 people and destroying over 600,000 buildings. As our first humanitarian response, Helvetas staff brought badly needed tarpaulins, medicine and food to the Sindhupalchok and Gorkha regions, where we have been carrying out development projects for many years now.

© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
The destroyed houses are rebuilt earthquake-proof. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
The construction teams were made up of people from needy families who have lost their homes. They built a new house together for each of them. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
The construction teams were trained in earthquake-proof construction. With their knowledge, they can later help other families to rebuild and earn an income. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
The new houses were built with dry stone walls, which makes them more stable. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
Daulima Sherpa was the first one who got a new house and built it herself. Today, she can support neighbors in building. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
The widow is glad that she and her sons have a safe roof over their heads after difficult months in an emergency shelter. © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr

We began reconstruction efforts a few weeks later, working closely together with the Swiss NGO Solidar Suisse. We repaired damaged water supply systems. We had local experts develop a model house made of dry masonry and wood that is more likely to withstand future quakes. The 300 local experts required for this purpose were trained on the job, which constitutes a contribution to the country’s development that goes far beyond an humanitarian response.

Experts were also trained to rebuild 34 schools, a project initiated by Helvetas and Caritas Switzerland. Latrine builders and plumbers equipped the new schools with functional water supply systems and latrines. Furthermore, Helvetas arranged for the repairs to the damaged suspension bridges that had been built in a previous Helvetas project. In a project to promote organic fair trade coffee, 50 processing facilities with pulping machines were repaired as well.

The fact that Helvetas combined reconstruction with development aid was noted and highly appreciated by other organizations: the UK Secretary of State for International Development commissioned Helvetas to train 6,500 bricklayers and 1,000 carpenters to build safe houses – which gave the project a wider focus on development cooperation.

Helvetas funded its humanitarian response in Nepal using donations as well as contributions from Swiss Solidarity (known in Switzerland as Glückskette), a fundraising foundation for humanitarian relief.   

© Helvetas /Patrick Rohr
«We’ll finally feel safe in our new house. After all, another quake can hit anytime.»

Daulima Sherpa (40), a farmer and earthquake victim trained in building quakeproof houses

Climate & Disaster Resilience

Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people in adapting to climate change, reducing the risks of disasters, sustainably managing natural resources, and conserving nature.

How Helvetas Supports People in Nepal

It all started in Nepal: Helvetas launched its first projects in 1956 in Nepal.